Mark 9:38-50 Causing To Stumble

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. [44] [b] 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [46] [c] 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where

“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’[d]

49 Everyone will be salted with fire.

50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

Causing To Stumble

The disciples thought that they were being faithful when they corrected people for using Jesus’ name who weren’t disciples.  Jesus seems to welcome the positive press, but it raises the question.  Was he condoning the acceptance of other religions which do not follow Jesus but revere him.  For example, Islam reveres Jesus as a prophet.  Hinduism accepts Jesus as an avatar in some circles.  Secular humanists often acknowledge Jesus as a good teacher.  I think Jesus’ reply that his disciples should support positive press, means that we should welcome that people speak positively of Jesus in other faiths.  However, we should use it as a platform for dialog and not as an end in itself.  Where Jesus is talked about in a positive but incomplete sense (for example, he is a prophet), we should use that as a basis to share the good news that he is the ultimate prophet, priest, and king.  He is more than an avatar, but he is the incarnation of the one true God.  If these people are saying good, but incomplete things about Jesus, they are not going to say something evil about him in the next breath.

In our approach to Jesus, there are many things that hold us back.  Weaknesses in our own nature can cause others around us to struggle.  The approach to our weaknesses needs to be uncompromising.  We often allow a habit or a flaw in our character to continue and ruin us inch by inch.  We all have imperfections in our character and Jesus suggests that for the health of the community, we seek them out and nail them.  We do not just save ourselves, but we also help the community around us to cease stumbling.

Prayer

Jesus, I have flaws which I am aware of and many of which I am blissfully ignorant.  I want them removed painlessly and in my sleep, but then I am unaware of your power and the extent of your grace.  Let me be brave so that I will walk a straighter path and let me love others enough to change and cease tripping them up.

Questions

  1. What were disciples trying to stop children from doing?
  2. What was the status of the child in ancient Roman living?
  3. How did people cause each other to stumble in Jesus’ day?
  4. Which of your selfish habits causes others to stumble?
  5. How might God work on that sin?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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